On an unusually cold and rainy spring night, Fort Worth’s only speakeasy was beckoning me. After a great pig roast and beers it was time for a cocktail, preferably one with bourbon. Looking for a place with more character than a typical hotel bar, Thompson’s seemed to be the perfect place.
Although the bar and speakeasy has been open for less than two months, the building it is housed in has quite an interesting history. It was a part of Hell’s Half Acre (an area of Fort Worth in the late 1800s that housed numerous saloons and brothels with wicked men and loose women); in 1910, it was a pharmacy and just before Prohibition, it became the Atlantic Coffee Company. After Prohibition, it turned back into a pharmacy until 1973, when it became a bookstore. The building sat vacant for quite a while before being remodeled, and other bars occupied the space before co-owner Glen Keely and partners took it over late last year.
Thompson’s is actually two bars in one (with a really cool private space upstairs). The main floor is Thompson’s Bookstore – a bar, not a bookstore – and the basement is the speakeasy. The main floor is open every night from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., while the actual speakeasy, fashioned after a pharmacy, is only open Wednesday to Sunday from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. True to a speakeasy, you need a password to get in. (Hint: check out their Facebook page). The “bookstore” is very quaint and has the obligatory secret door to the speakeasy downstairs. But more importantly, Thompson’s Bookstore has a great cocktail program.
Inspired by Death & Co. and PDT in New York City, Keely, a native of New Jersey, saw the cocktail culture explode and wanted to bring that to Ft. Worth. He was also very quick to point out that there are a couple of other bars in Fort Worth that are putting out great cocktails as well, like The Usual.
As the owner of a successful neighborhood Irish pub, Poag Mahone’s, I asked Keely, why open a speakeasy? “I’ve been in this business for 24 years and I was looking for a new challenge. I love it when a cocktail piques a customer’s interest.” Not only is he thrilled to see customers excited about their drinks, but they are also offering barrel aged cocktails. You can get barrel aged Manhattans, Boulevardiers (it’s a Negroni but with rye or bourbon instead of gin), and a Three Amigos cocktail. They also offer many different infusions they use in house created cocktails. One that is particularly good is the tequila cabeza with strawberry, basil, and watermelon.
A cocktail doesn’t mix itself, and the bartenders and resident whiskey expert, Mathew Konrad Hartman, are more than willing and able to make a classic drink or use their bartending skills to craft you a unique cocktail. Here’s one thing to keep in mind when you go to any establishment that serves craft cocktails: it takes time, and you’re probably going to spend a few dollars more than you would at, say, the hotel bar. But, most hotel bars don’t use Carpano Antica vermouth and Luxardo cherries Honestly, once you have a Luxardo, a Maraschino cherry will seem elementary. You’re an adult, so drink like one!